Playing Pool

Last night I went with a small group of friends to play pool.  It was actually a brightly lit pool hall, not a smokey bar with pool tables.  Only a handful of the the bright blue tables were being used but it was a Sunday night.

It took a minute for us to realize that something was off.  The pool tables didn't have pockets!  Apparently they were Carom billiard tables which are much more popular in Europe and Asia than in the States.  The employee of the hall tried to teach us how to play.  There are only three balls and you have to make your cue ball hit three sides of the table before hitting your object ball.  Doing that correctly earns you a point and score is kept to determine the winner.

Luckily, the one single "regular" pool table in the hall opened up.  We weren't really getting the hang of the 3-ball game anyway so we gladly switched tables and played a few good-hearted games.

We were offered free juices... I rolled with the pineapple.

"Winning is overrated.  The only time it's really important is in surgery and war."
-Al McGuire

Coffee Break

Some friends and I stopped by a great little coffee shop called Eun Chae Coffee the other day.  The outside of the building was cute but the interior was amazing with big pictures windows that overlooked a lake.  We each had a different coffee drink that was served with little cinnamon biscuit cookies.  It was the perfect afternoon coffee break :)

Outside of the coffee shop there was a large area full of kimchi pots.  Kimchi is a traditional Korean food  made from vegetables.  There are many different types and the flavor depends entirely on the type of vegetable and the amount of spice used.  Kimchi is made and then stored in large clay pots for 2 weeks or more until it has fermented.  I actually like some types of kimchi (radish and cucumber) but I think the cabbage kimchi smells and tastes like sweaty gym socks.  Regardless of what it tastes like, the large pots are always a neat sight to see :)

"Science may never come up with a better communication system than the coffee break."
-Earl Wilson

Happy Quilt

UPDATE:  Happy Quilt has moved to a new location and has new hours.  Please click here to view the post on the new store.

One of the things I like about the military is that you are never alone.  No matter where you get stationed, you have an instant "family" of friends to show you the ropes, help if you need it, and simply have fun with!  Thankfully, this family is also willing to share their wealth of knowledge about the best shopping, local restaurants, beautiful travel spots, etc.  It makes living in a new place so much easier and life is always more fun when you have friends around to enjoy it with :)

Happy Quilt is a fabric store/warehouse very close to where we live.  It's such an inconspicuous building that if you aren't told about it, you probably wouldn't stumble upon it on your own.  Yesterday a group of friends and I spent some time in this colorful fabric paradise and then had a great lunch at a nearby Korean restaurant.  Happy Quilt has a HUGE selection of fabric that you can buy in packaged precut pieces or in lengths of your choosing and the prices are amazing.  You're likely to find any pattern you're looking for and there are even name brand prints such as Riley Blake and Vera Bradley.  I'm so glad that I brought my sewing supplies to Korea - now I just have to decide what to make!  The only fabric I bought on this trip to Happy Quilt is to send to my mom who is super talented with a sewing machine :)

Stacks of fabric towering above our heads


Shelves of the precut packaged fabric pieces

American university prints

Lots of Vera fabrics - some quilted

You can pick any fabrics you like and have them made into duffles and bags right there in the store.  There were bags around that were for sale and as examples of things that could be made.

"Sew much fabric, sew little time!"
-Author Unknown

Food Shopping

Johnnie and I go to the commissary on base for grocery shopping once a week.  A commissary is a supermarket on a military base for military personnel and their dependents.  It has all of the typical groceries and products that we normally use with only a few exceptions (Coconut Water and Lemon Zest Luna Bars please). However, even the exceptions are easily ordered on the internet - I love technology!

There are two fairly large Korean grocery stores close to our apartment.  I love walking through them just to look at everything and usually only pick up a couple things if any.  Very few things are in English in these stores.  Even "American" products are usually packaged for Korea with Hangul writing.  I tend to go by the pictures on the products but still some things are completely unrecognizable.

It looks like a typical supermarket.

I have no idea what most of this is...

Fresh little octopuses!

A larger frozen octopus!

SPAM is recognizable in any language

Some familiar boxes... Special K, Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes

And some familiar bottled drinks... Coke, Powerade, Gatorade, Vitamin Water

"Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed."
-Irene Peter

Plugged In

When using electrical appliances in other countries, you have to be aware of the type of voltage and the type of plug.  While there are many different types of plugs in the world, there are only two basic standards of voltage: 110V applies to the range of 100V to 160V, and 220V applies to the range of 200V to 260V.  The majority of appliances sold in the States are labeled 110V only, which is the standard for the country.  However, some things are made dual voltage which are labeled 110V/220V.

Using an appliance that is a different voltage without converting it properly will not allow it to work the way it should.  For example, in high school I went on a school trip to Spain.  A girl in our group made this mistake and her curling iron got so hot that it burned her bangs off.  I can still picture her holding out her iron with her bangs attached to it while touching the short hairs left on her head in horror!

The plugs here in Korea of course look different than American ones and the voltage here is 220V.  While the housing on-base actually has "regular American" plugs and voltage, we are living off-base which means we have to adapt to the Korean versions.

Unpacking our electrical appliances, we found only a handful that are dual voltage - my Canon camera battery chargers, everything by Apple (computer, ipods, etc), and my travel flat iron.  These dual-voltage things are easy to use because we only need an adapter (something that simply changes the shape of the plug) in order to use them.

The rest of the electrical appliances that we brought are 110V and require a converter box in order to be used.  A few of these boxes came with the apartment but we had to buy a few more.  The box plugs into the wall and converts the power down from 220 to 110 so that the appliances plugged into the box work correctly.  We have converters for the things we use most often (TV, microwave, toaster, etc) but there are a few things (lamps and alarm clocks) that we won't bother using while we're here.

"I want to get a job as someone who names appliances.  Toaster, sweeper, blender... all you do is say what it does and add 'er' to the end. Hey, what does that do? It keeps stuff fresh. Well then, that's a Fresher... I'm going on break."
-Mitch Hedberg

Our Ride Has Arrived

We shipped our vehicle from Seattle at the beginning of January and it arrived in South Korea last week.  Because of Johnnie's work schedule, we had to wait until today to go up to Seoul and pick it up.  We took a bus from our base up to the US Army base in Seoul.  It was a cheap ride on a comfortable charter bus that took about an hour.

The bus - with an interesting tour name...

Passing by the city of Suwon - most of the high-rises are apartment buildings.

These hills turned into mountains the further north we drove.

LG, Costco, and Motorola - all familiar companies

Missing our Harley that we left back in the States...

Driving along and across the Han River

Temporary Korean plates are on and keys are in hand!

It was so comforting to climb into a piece of our old life!  Having our own vehicle here means having the freedom to get around.  No more bumming rides from other people and no more putting groceries in the trunk of a taxi.  Upon leaving the vehicle processing center, our Korean agent told us "First gas, then lunch.  Or first lunch if you really hungry."  We went to lunch first, then filled up the tank, and then drove our very own car back home :)

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."
-Author Unknown


Our apartment has nice (but fake) hardwood floors throughout, radiant floor heating under the fake hardwood, and no air circulation.  This combination results in dust and dog hair settling everywhere, turning into hairy dust bunnies daily.  We have a microfiber duster broom and an awesome little handheld Dyson vacuum, but to cut down on necessary daily use of these two things, we bought a robot - an iRobot Roomba Pet Series vacuuming robot.  Now that we actually have our things unpacked and put away, we unleashed our new "pet" today.  We let him run around for about 10 minutes and during that time he picked up a surprising amount of pet hair and dust from today's unswept floor.  He maneuvered skillfully around the legs of the coffee table, gently pushed under the window blinds, changed directions every time he hit something solid, and returned to his docking station when he was done.  He was pure entertainment for us to watch and something new for Dulce to keep an eye on.  Time will tell how good of a job he'll do keeping our floor clean :)

"Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don't do it."
-Author Unknown